Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Breach of Trust by Egg Mafia?

A video alleging neglect and abuse of chicks and laying hens on two Alberta Canada factory farms operated by members of Alberta's #EggMafia is available here and mainstream media reports here.  The undercover video is embedded below:

Alberta Chicken Producers ("ACP", one of the Supply Management governing body for Alberta's Chicken Mafia) has an interesting slide deck on trust, and building consumer confidence. Quite a contrast between the training course and what we see in this shocking video.

I suggest downloading a copy of this training course, as it may soon disappear.

If it does disappear, I have archived a copy here, as of 2013/10/22 13:30 EDT:

Based on this presentation, I conclude that ACP knew better.

Egg Farmers of Alberta ("EFA") is the Egg Mafia's governing body for egg producers in Alberta.  Do they talk to the boys over at ACP?  Did EFA have a similar policy and training program?  I can't find anything to that effect on EFA's website except a press release about slow transition away from battery cage systems.  If ACP knew better, then I can only assume that EFA knew better, or should have known better, but these shocking allegations come to light while under their watchful (or blindfolded) eyes.

Egg carton crafts by EFA. 
Don't they have something more important to
do with their limited time and resources?
It seems EFA's main focus for some time now is on egg recipes and egg carton crafts for kids. Recipes that use eggs are already available from many sources.  I'm sure kids enjoy the craft projects, but is that really EFA's top #1 priority, or should EFA focus first on more important issues?

Once EFA has all their top priority work done (eg. animal welfare, egg prices dropping due to better productivity, etc.) everything is running well, and all risks are contained, then and only then should EFA feel free to play with their egg carton artwork all day.    Prevention and ensuring of animal welfare by and for the Egg Mafia must come first and foremost.

Is EFA solely and exclusively re-arranging the deck chairs to make them pretty when they should be in the wheelhouse bridge, watching for and avoiding ice burgs?  No wonder the Egg Mafia and Supply Management is sinking like the Titanic.
"I share in the public's response to the video. The images were unacceptable."— Peter Clarke, Board Chairman, Egg Farmers of Canada
                                                        as quoted by CBC News

Egg Farmers of Canada ("EFC") sets the standards and expectations on a Canada-wide basis for egg farms; or they're supposed to.  Setting adequate and enforceable standards, then regular auditing to those standards is one of the three mandatory governance roles for EFC.  Corrective actions and continuous improvement are the other two legs of this three legged governance stool.  Did EFC do an adequate job in its important public trust?

Should everybody be held equally responsible?  By that I mean all who were directly and indirectly involved (ie. EFA, EFC, ACP, the farmer who owned the quota for the accused chicken factories, and the employees who did the actions and inactions complained against)?

Let's not forget what Farm Products Council of Canada ("FPCC") was doing while all of this was going on.  FPCC is supposed to be checking to make sure the overall egg supply management system is working well, and all of these other organizations (EFC, EFA, ACP, etc. ) are doing their job.  Did FPCC do an adequate job of auditing and supervising their charges?  Could FPCC have done differently years ago, so as to reduce the probability of this alleged abuse occurring?

If the video is real and a fair representation of events, I suggest there has been a breach of the public's trust, in addition to any civil and/or criminal charges that may soon be laid.

Trust is formed and protected by 4 factors:
  1. Benevolent best interest of the other party
  2. Open and honest communication
  3. Competency
  4. Predictable behaviour
When something like the Alberta chicken scandal occurs, I suggest that this wasn't the treatment that the chickens wanted nor expected to receive, nor the public (ie. breach of public trust).  Hindsight may soon prove that actions were negligent or worse,  and are therefore probably not in those Egg Mafia  farmer's best interest either, neither in the short term nor long term.

Arising from the factors affecting trust, I have some questions:
  1. Was there open & honest communication:
    • on the farm between the workers and the farm owner?
    • were all employees required to report all suspected incidents of abuse, crime, or risky behaviours by anybody on staff, suppliers, or visitors?
    • between the farmer and his customers, such as McDonald's Restaurants?
    • between the farmer and Egg Farmers of Alberta ("EFA")?
    • EFA farm inspectors and the EFA Board?
    • EFA Board and the  public?
  2. Who knew this was going on & when did they know?  Was there a duty to act so as to stop it, or report it to authorities?
  3. Did EFA mislead the public by re-assuring us that all was well, that all animals within their Egg Mafia systems were being properly cared for?
    • Did they have objective evidence to back up those assurances? 
    • Did they know those assurances were true?  
    • Did they care whether those assurances were 100% fair and true, mis-leading, distracting from the true issues, or not true?
    • Did they disclose their assumptions?
  4. Was there proper training for employees at those farms, as provided by the farm owner(s)?
  5. Did the Egg Mafia farmer(s) adequately supervise, audit, and inspect his operations, and the work habits of his staff?
  6. How did the farm owners objectively prove that employee training was effective, and being consistently followed?
  7. Was EFA competent and effective in the regulations and  rules it established that could have prevented these alleged acts from occurring, or detected them earlier?
  8. Did EFA define, provide, and ensure that quota holders received adequate training, and had full comprehension, and consistently practiced those training and expectations?
  9. If yes to all the above, how do we explain the alleged acts that we see in the video?
These are some tough questions that need to be answered.

In time, we will learn if these allegations are true.

In the interim, I conclude there is already more than enough evidence to convict Canada's Egg Mafia and the Supply Management System for both chicken and eggs as being chronically dysfunctional, ineffective, wrong headed, costly, inefficient, an embarrassment to all Canadians, and desperately in need of immediate reform.

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